Tax Considerations for Retirees

Are you aware of them?

 

Provided by Michael Snow

    

The federal government offers some major tax breaks for older Americans. Some of these perks deserve more publicity than they receive.

       

If you are 65 or older, your standard deduction is $1,300 larger. Make that $1,600 if you are unmarried. Thanks to the passage of the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, the 2018 standard deduction for an individual taxpayer at least 65 years of age is a whopping $13,600, more than double what it was in 2017. (If you are someone else’s dependent, your standard deduction is much less.)1

 

You may be able to write off some medical costs. This year, the Internal Revenue Service will let you deduct qualifying medical expenses once they exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income. In 2019, the threshold will return to 10% of AGI, unless Congress acts to preserve the 7.5% baseline. The I.R.S. list of eligible expenses is long. Beyond out-of-pocket costs paid to doctors and other health care professionals, it also includes things like long-term care insurance premiums, travel costs linked to medical appointments, and payments for durable medical equipment, such as dentures and hearing aids.2

 

Are you thinking about selling your home? Many retirees consider this. If you have lived in your current residence for at least two of the five years preceding a sale, you can exclude as much as $250,000 in gains from federal taxation (a married couple can shield up to $500,000). These limits, established in 1997, have never been indexed to inflation. The Department of the Treasury has been studying whether it has the power to adjust them. If modified for inflation, they would approach $400,000 for singles and $800,000 for married couples.3,4

 

Low-income seniors may qualify for the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. This incentive, intended for people 65 and older (and younger people who have retired due to permanent and total disability), can be as large as $7,500 based on your filing status. You must have very low AGI and nontaxable income to claim it, though. It is basically designed for those living wholly or mostly on Social Security benefits.5

 

Affluent IRA owners may want to make a charitable IRA gift. If you are well off and have a large traditional IRA, you may not need your yearly Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) for living expenses. If you are 70½ or older, you have an option: you can make a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) with IRA assets. You can donate up to $100,000 of IRA assets to a qualified charity in a single year this way, and the amount donated counts toward your annual RMD. (A married couple gets to donate up to $200,000 per year.) Even more importantly, the amount of the QCD is excluded from your taxable income for the year of the donation.6

 

Some states also give seniors tax breaks. For example, the following 11 states do not tax federal, state, or local pension income: Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Pennsylvania. Twenty-eight states (and the District of Columbia) refrain from taxing Social Security income.7

   

Unfortunately, your Social Security benefits could be partly or fully taxable. They could be taxed at both the federal and state level, depending on how much you earn and where you happen to live. Whether you feel this is reasonable or not, you may have the potential to claim some of the tax breaks mentioned above as you pursue the goal of tax efficiency.5,7

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. 125 N. Market St., Suite 1603, Wichita, KS 67202

 

Citations.

1 – fool.com/taxes/2018/04/15/2018-standard-deduction-how-much-it-is-and-why-you.aspx [4/15/18]

2 – aarp.org/money/taxes/info-2018/medical-deductions-irs-fd.html [1/12/18]

3 – loans.usnews.com/what-are-the-tax-benefits-of-buying-a-house [10/17/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/08/02/some-home-sellers-would-see-huge-savings-under-treasury-tax-cut-plan.html [8/2/18]

5 – fool.com/taxes/2017/12/31/living-on-social-security-heres-a-tax-credit-just.aspx [12/31/17]

6 – tinyurl.com/y8slf8et [1/3/18]

7 – thebalance.com/state-income-taxes-in-retirement-3193297 ml [8/15/18]

 

Your Diversified Portfolio vs. the S&P 500

How global returns and proper diversification are affecting overall returns.  

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

“Why is my portfolio under-performing the market?” This question may be on your mind. It is a question that investors sometimes ask after stocks shatter records or return exceptionally well in a quarter.

 

The short answer is that while the U.S. equities market has realized significant gains in 2018, international markets and intermediate and long-term bonds have under-performed and exerted a drag on overall portfolio performance. A little elaboration will help explain things further.

    

A diversified portfolio necessarily includes a range of asset classes. This will always be the case, and while investors may wish for an all-equities portfolio when stocks are surging, a 100% stock allocation is obviously fraught with risk.

   

Because of this long bull market, some investors now have larger positions in equities than they originally planned. A portfolio once evenly held in equities and fixed income may now have a majority of its assets held in stocks, with the performance of stock markets influencing its return more than in the past.1

 

Yes, stock markets – as in stock markets worldwide. Today, investors have more global exposure than they once did. In the 1990’s, international holdings represented about 5% of an individual investor’s typical portfolio. Today, that has risen to about 15%. When overseas markets struggle, it does impact the return for many U.S. investors – and struggle they have. A strong dollar, the appearance of tariffs – these are considerable headwinds.2,3  

 

In addition, a sudden change in sector performance can have an impact. At one point in 2018, tech stocks accounted for 25% of the weight of the S&P 500. While the recent restructuring of S&P sectors lowered that by a few percentage points, portfolios can still be greatly affected when tech shares slide, as investors witnessed in fall 2018.4

   

How about the fixed-income market? Well, this has been a weak year for bonds, and bonds are not known for generating huge annual returns to start with.3

 

This year, U.S. stocks have been out in front. A portfolio 100% invested in the U.S. stock market would have a 2018 return like that of the S&P 500. But who invests entirely in stocks, let alone without any exposure to international and emerging markets?3

 

Just as an illustration, assume there is a hypothetical investor this year who is actually 100% invested in equities, as follows: 50% domestic, 35% international, 15% emerging markets. In the first two-thirds of 2018, that hypothetical portfolio would have advanced just 3.6%.3

 

Your portfolio is not the market – and vice versa. Your investments might be returning 3% or less so far this year. Yes – this year. Will the financial markets behave in this exact fashion next year? Will the sector returns or emerging market returns of 2018 be replicated year after year for the next 10 or 15 years? The chances are remote.

 

The investment markets are ever-changing. In some years, you may get a double-digit return. In other years, your return is much smaller. When your portfolio is diversified across asset classes, the highs may not be so high – but the lows may not be so low, either. When things turn volatile, diversification may help insulate you from some of the ups and downs you go through as an investor.

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are un-managed and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

     

Citations.

1 – seattletimes.com/business/5-steps-to-take-if-the-bull-market-run-has-you-thinking-of-unloading-stocks/ [8/25/18]

2 – forbes.com/sites/simonmoore/2018/08/05/how-most-investors-get-their-international-stock-exposure-wrong/ [8/5/18]

3 – thestreet.com/investing/stocks/dear-financial-advisor-why-is-my-portfolio-performing-so-14712955 [9/15/18]

4 – cnbc.com/2018/04/20/tech-dominates-the-sp-500-but-thats-not-always-a-bad-omen.html [4/20/18]

 

Your 2019 Financial To-Do List

Things you can do for your future as the year unfolds.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

                       

What financial, business, or life priorities do you need to address for 2019? Now is a good time to think about the investing, saving, or budgeting methods you could employ toward specific objectives, from building your retirement fund to lowering your taxes. You have plenty of options. Here are a few that might prove convenient.

 

Can you contribute more to your retirement plans this year? In 2019, the yearly contribution limit for a Roth or traditional IRA rises to $6,000 ($7,000 for those making “catch-up” contributions). Your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) may affect how much you can put into a Roth IRA: singles and heads of household with MAGI above $137,000 and joint filers with MAGI above $203,000 cannot make 2019 Roth contributions.1

 

For tax year 2019, you can contribute up to $19,000 to 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans, with a $6,000 catch-up contribution allowed if you are age 50 or older. If you are self-employed, you may want to look into whether you can establish and fund a solo 401(k) before the end of 2019; as employer contributions may also be made to solo 401(k)s, you may direct up to $56,000 into one of those plans.1

 

Your retirement plan contribution could help your tax picture. If you won’t turn 70½ in 2019 and you participate in a traditional qualified retirement plan or have a traditional IRA, you can cut your taxable income through a contribution. Should you be in the new 24% federal tax bracket, you can save $1,440 in taxes as a byproduct of a $6,000 traditional IRA contribution.2

 

What are the income limits on deducting traditional IRA contributions? If you participate in a workplace retirement plan, the 2019 MAGI phase-out ranges are $64,000-$74,000 for singles and heads of households, $103,000-$123,000 for joint filers when the spouse making IRA contributions is covered by a workplace retirement plan, and $193,000-$203,000 for an IRA contributor not covered by a workplace retirement plan, but married to someone who is.1

 

Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and 457 plans are funded with after-tax dollars, so you may not take an immediate federal tax deduction for your contributions to them. The upside is that if you follow I.R.S. rules, the account assets may eventually be withdrawn tax free.3

 

Your tax year 2019 contribution to a Roth or traditional IRA may be made as late as the 2020 federal tax deadline – and, for that matter, you can make a 2018 IRA contribution as late as April 15, 2019, which is the deadline for filing your 2018 federal return. There is no merit in waiting until April of the successive year, however, since delaying a contribution only delays tax-advantaged compounding of those dollars.1,3

 

Should you go Roth in 2019? You might be considering that if you only have a traditional IRA. This is no snap decision; the Internal Revenue Service no longer gives you a chance to undo it, and the tax impact of the conversion must be weighed versus the potential future benefits. If you are a high earner, you should know that income phase-out limits may affect your chance to make Roth IRA contributions. For 2019, phase-outs kick in at $193,000 for joint filers and $122,000 for single filers and heads of household. Should your income prevent you from contributing to a Roth IRA at all, you still have the chance to contribute to a traditional IRA in 2019 and go Roth later.1,4

 

Incidentally, a footnote: distributions from certain qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k)s, are not subject to the 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) affecting single/joint filers with MAGIs over $200,000/$250,000. If your MAGI does surpass these thresholds, then dividends, royalties, the taxable part of non-qualified annuity income, taxable interest, passive income (such as partnership and rental income), and net capital gains from the sale of real estate and investments are subject to that surtax. (Please note that the NIIT threshold is just $125,000 for spouses who choose to file their federal taxes separately.)5

 

Consult a tax or financial professional before you make any IRA moves to see how those changes may affect your overall financial picture. If you have a large, traditional IRA, the projected tax resulting from a Roth conversion may make you think twice.

  

What else should you consider in 2019? There are other things you may want to do or review.

  

Make charitable gifts. The individual standard deduction rises to $12,000 in 2019, so there will be less incentive to itemize deductions for many taxpayers – but charitable donations are still deductible if they are itemized. If you plan to gift more than $12,000 to qualified charities and non-profits in 2019, remember that the paper trail is important.6

 

If you give cash, you need to document it. Even small contributions need to be demonstrated by a bank record or a written communication from the charity with the date and amount. Incidentally, the I.R.S. does not equate a pledge with a donation. You must contribute to a qualified charity to claim a federal charitable tax deduction. Incidentally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lifted the ceiling on the amount of cash you can give to a charity per year – you can now gift up to 60% of your adjusted gross income in cash per year, rather than 50%.6,7

 

What if you gift appreciated securities? If you have owned them for more than a year, you will be in line to take a deduction for 100% of their fair market value and avoid capital gains tax that would have resulted from simply selling the investment and donating the proceeds. The non-profit organization gets the full amount of the gift, and you can claim a deduction of up to 30% of your adjusted gross income.8

 

Does the value of your gift exceed $250? It may, and if you gift that amount or larger to a qualified charitable organization, you should ask that charity or non-profit group for a receipt. You should always request a receipt for a cash gift, no matter how large or small the amount.8

 

If you aren’t sure if an organization is eligible to receive charitable gifts, check it out at irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations-Select-Check.

 

Open an HSA. If you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, you may set up and fund a Health Savings Account in 2019. You can make fully tax-deductible HSA contributions of up to $3,500 (singles) or $7,000 (families); catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 are permitted for those 55 or older. HSA assets grow tax deferred, and withdrawals from these accounts are tax free if used to pay for qualified health care expenses.9

 

Practice tax-loss harvesting. By selling depreciated shares in a taxable investment account, you can offset capital gains or up to $3,000 in regular income ($1,500 is the annual limit for married couples who file separately). In fact, you may use this tactic to offset all your total capital gains for a given tax year. Losses that exceed the $3,000 yearly limit may be rolled over into 2020 (and future tax years) to offset ordinary income or capital gains again.10

    

Pay attention to asset location. Tax-efficient asset location is an ignored fundamental of investing. Broadly speaking, your least tax-efficient securities should go in pre-tax accounts, and your most tax-efficient securities should be held in taxable accounts.

  

Review your withholding status. You may have updated it last year when the I.R.S. introduced new withholding tables; you may want to adjust for 2019 due to any of the following factors.

 

* You tend to pay a great deal of income tax each year.

* You tend to get a big federal tax refund each year.

* You recently married or divorced.

* A family member recently passed away.

* You have a new job, and you are earning much more than you previously did.

* You started a business venture or became self-employed.

 

Are you marrying in 2019? If so, why not review the beneficiaries of your workplace retirement plan account, your IRA, and other assets? In light of your marriage, you may want to make changes to the relevant beneficiary forms. The same goes for your insurance coverage. If you will have a new last name in 2019, you will need a new Social Security card. Additionally, the two of you, no doubt, have individual retirement saving and investment strategies. Will they need to be revised or adjusted once you are married?

   

Are you coming home from active duty? If so, go ahead and check the status of your credit and the state of any tax and legal proceedings that might have been preempted by your orders. Make sure any employee health insurance is still in place. Revoke any power of attorney you may have granted to another person.

   

Consider the tax impact of any upcoming transactions. Are you planning to sell (or buy) real estate next year? How about a business? Do you think you might exercise a stock option in the coming months? Might any large commissions or bonuses come your way in 2019? Do you anticipate selling an investment that is held outside of a tax-deferred account? Any of these actions might significantly impact your 2019 taxes.

 

If you are retired and older than 70½, remember your year-end RMD. Retirees over age 70½ must begin taking Required Minimum Distributions from traditional IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs by December 31 of each year. The I.R.S. penalty for failing to take an RMD equals 50% of the RMD amount that is not withdrawn.4,11

   

If you turned 70½ in 2018, you can postpone your initial RMD from an account until April 1, 2019. All subsequent RMDs must be taken by December 31 of the calendar year to which the RMD applies. The downside of delaying your 2018 RMD into 2019 is that you will have to take two RMDs in 2019, with both RMDs being taxable events. You will have to make your 2018 tax year RMD by April 1, 2019, and then take your 2019 tax year RMD by December 31, 2019.11

 

Plan your RMDs wisely. If you do so, you may end up limiting or avoiding possible taxes on your Social Security income. Some Social Security recipients don’t know about the “provisional income” rule – if your adjusted gross income, plus any non-taxable interest income you earn, plus 50% of your Social Security benefits surpasses a certain level, then some Social Security benefits become taxable. Social Security benefits start to be taxed at provisional income levels of $32,000 for joint filers and $25,000 for single filers.11

 

Lastly, should you make 13 mortgage payments in 2019? There may be some merit to making a January 2020 mortgage payment in December 2019. If you have a fixed-rate loan, a lump-sum payment can reduce the principal and the total interest paid on it by that much more.

   

Talk with a qualified financial or tax professional today. Vow to focus on being healthy and wealthy in 2019.

   

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed Insurance agency.

    

Citations.

1 – forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2018/11/01/irs-announces-2019-retirement-plan-contribution-limits-for-401ks-and-more [11/1/18]

2 – irs.com/articles/2018-federal-tax-rates-personal-exemptions-and-standard-deductions [11/2/17]

3 – irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-and-Roth-IRAs [7/10/18]

4 – forbes.com/sites/bobcarlson/2018/10/26/7-ira-strategies-for-year-end-2018/ [10/26/18]

5 – irs.gov/newsroom/questions-and-answers-on-the-net-investment-income-tax [6/18/18]

6 – crainsdetroit.com/philanthropy/what-donors-need-know-about-tax-reform [10/21/18]

7 – thebalance.com/tax-deduction-for-charity-donations-3192983 [7/25/18]

8 – schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/charitable-donations-the-basics-of-giving [7/2/18]

9 – kiplinger.com/article/insurance/T027-C001-S003-health-savings-account-limits-for-2019.html [8/28/18]

10 – schwab.com/resource-center/insights/content/reap-benefits-tax-loss-harvesting-to-lower-your-tax-bill [10/7/18]

11 – fool.com/retirement/2018/01/29/5-things-to-consider-before-tapping-your-retiremen.aspx [1/29/18]

Tolerate the Turbulence

 

Look beyond this moment and stay focused on your long-term objectives.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

Volatility will always be around on Wall Street, and as you invest for the long term, you must learn to tolerate it. Rocky moments, fortunately, are not the norm.

  

Since the end of World War II, there have been dozens of Wall Street shocks. Wall Street has seen 56 pullbacks (retreats of 5-9.99%) in the past 73 years; the S&P index dipped 6.9% in this last one. On average, the benchmark fully rebounded from these pullbacks within two months. The S&P has also seen 22 corrections (descents of 10-19.99%) and 12 bear markets (falls of 20% or more) in the post-WWII era.1

 

Even with all those setbacks, the S&P has grown exponentially larger. During the month World War II ended (September 1945), its closing price hovered around 16. At this writing, it is above 2,750. Those two numbers communicate the value of staying invested for the long run.2

 

This current bull market has witnessed five corrections, and nearly a sixth (a 9.8% pullback in 2011, a year that also saw a 19.4% correction). It has risen roughly 335% since its beginning even with those stumbles. Investors who stayed in equities through those downturns watched the major indices soar to all-time highs.1

 

As all this history shows, waiting out the shocks may be highly worthwhile. The alternative is trying to time the market. That can be a fool’s errand. To succeed at market timing, investors have to be right twice, which is a tall order. Instead of selling in response to paper losses, perhaps they should respond to the fear of missing out on great gains during a recovery and hang on through the choppiness.

 

After all, volatility creates buying opportunities. Shares of quality companies are suddenly available at a discount. Investors effectively pay a lower average cost per share to obtain them.

 

Bad market days shock us because they are uncommon. If pullbacks or corrections occurred regularly, they would discourage many of us from investing in equities; we would look elsewhere to try and build wealth. A decade ago, in the middle of the terrible 2007-09 bear market, some investors convinced themselves that bad days were becoming the new normal. History proved them wrong.

 

As you ride out this current outbreak of volatility, keep two things in mind. One, your time horizon. You are investing for goals that may be five, ten, twenty, or thirty years in the future. One bad market week, month, or year is but a blip on that timeline and is unlikely to have a severe impact on your long-run asset accumulation strategy. Two, remember that there have been more good days on Wall Street than bad ones. The S&P 500 rose in 53.7% of its trading sessions during the years 1950-2017, and it advanced in 68 of the 92 years ending in 2017.3,4

 

Sudden volatility should not lead you to exit the market. If you react anxiously and move out of equities in response to short-term downturns, you may impede your progress toward your long-term goals.

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

    

Citations.

1 – marketwatch.com/story/if-us-stocks-suffer-another-correction-start-worrying-2018-10-16 [10/16/18]

2 – multpl.com/s-p-500-historical-prices/table/by-month [10/18/18]

3 – crestmontresearch.com/docs/Stock-Yo-Yo.pdf [10/18/18]

4 – icmarc.org/prebuilt/apps/downloadDoc.asp [2/18]

 

Investing Means Tolerating Some Risk

 

That truth must always be recognized.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

                       

When financial markets have a bad day, week, or month, discomforting headlines and data can swiftly communicate a message to retirees and retirement savers alike: equity investments are risky things, and Wall Street is a risky place.

 

All true. If you want to accumulate significant retirement savings or try and grow your wealth through the opportunities in the markets, this is a reality you cannot avoid.

 

Regularly, your investments contend with assorted market risks. They never go away. At times, they may seem dangerous to your net worth or your retirement savings, so much so that you think about getting out of equities entirely.

 

If you are having such thoughts, think about this: in the big picture, the real danger to your retirement could be being too risk averse.

 

Is it possible to hold too much in cash? Yes. Some pre-retirees do. (Even some retirees, in fact.) They have six-figure savings accounts, built up since the Great Recession and the last bear market. It is a prudent move. A dollar will always be worth a dollar in America, and that money is out of the market and backed by deposit insurance.

 

This is all well and good, but the problem is what that money is earning. Even with interest rates rising, many high-balance savings accounts are currently yielding less than 0.5% a year. The latest inflation data shows consumer prices advancing 2.3% a year. That money in the bank is not outrunning inflation, not even close. It will lose purchasing power over time.1,2

 

Consider some of the recent yearly advances of the S&P 500. In 2016, it gained 9.54%; in 2017, it gained 19.42%. Those were the price returns; the 2016 and 2017 total returns (with dividends reinvested) were a respective 11.96% and 21.83%.3,4

 

Yes, the broad benchmark for U.S. equities has bad years as well. Historically, it has had about one negative year for every three positive years. Looking through relatively recent historical windows, the positives have mostly outweighed the negatives for investors. From 1973-2016, for example, the S&P gained an average of 11.69% per year. (The last 3-year losing streak the S&P had was in 2000-02.)5

 

Your portfolio may not return as well as the S&P does in a given year, but when equities rally, your household may see its invested assets grow noticeably. When you bring in equity investment account factors like compounding and tax deferral, the growth of those invested assets over decades may dwarf the growth that could result from mere checking or savings account interest.

 

At some point, putting too little into investments and too much in the bank may become a risk – a risk to your retirement savings potential. At today’s interest rates, the money you are saving may end up growing faster if it is invested in some vehicle offering potentially greater reward and comparatively greater degrees of risk to tolerate.

 

Having a big emergency fund is good. You can dip into that liquid pool of cash to address sudden financial issues that pose risks to your financial equilibrium in the present.

 

Having a big retirement fund is even better. When you have one of those, you may confidently address the biggest financial risk you will ever face: the risk of outliving your money in the future.

 

Michael Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed Insurance Agency.

     

Citations.

1 – valuepenguin.com/average-savings-account-interest-rates [10/4/18]

2 – investing.com/economic-calendar/ [10/11/18]

3 – money.cnn.com/data/markets/sandp/ [10/11/18]

4 – ycharts.com/indicators/sandp_500_total_return_annual [10/11/18]

5 – thebalance.com/stock-market-returns-by-year-2388543 [6/23/18]

When Is Social Security Income Taxable?

To find out, look closely at two factors.

 

Provided by Michael Snow

 

Your Social Security income could be taxed. That may seem unfair or unfathomable. Regardless of how you feel about it, it is a possibility.

 

Seniors have had to contend with this possibility since 1984. Social Security benefits became taxable above a certain yearly income level in that year. A second, higher yearly income threshold (at which a higher tax rate applies) was added in 1993. These income thresholds have never been adjusted upward for inflation.1

 

As a result, more Social Security recipients have been exposed to the tax over time. About 56% of senior households now have some percentage of their Social Security incomes taxed.1

 

Only part of your Social Security income may be taxable, not all of it. Two factors come into play here: your filing status and your combined income.

 

Social Security defines your combined income as the sum of your adjusted gross income (AGI), any non-taxable interest earned, and 50% of your Social Security benefit income. (Your combined income is actually a form of modified adjusted gross income, or MAGI.)2

 

Single filers with a combined income from $25,000-$34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes from $32,000-$44,000 may have up to 50% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

 

Single filers whose combined income tops $34,000 and joint filers with combined incomes above $44,000 may see up to 85% of their Social Security benefits taxed.2

  

If you are a head of household, or a qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, the combined income thresholds for single filers apply to you.2

 

What if you are married and file separately? No income threshold applies. Your benefits will likely be taxed no matter how much you earn or how much Social Security you receive. (The only exception is if you are married filing separately and do not live with your spouse at any time during the year. In that case, part of your Social Security benefits may be taxed if your combined income exceeds $25,000.)2

 

You may be able to estimate these taxes in advance. You can use an online calculator (a Google search will lead you to a few such tools) or the worksheet in I.R.S. Publication 915.2

 

You can even have these taxes withheld from your Social Security income. You can choose either 7%, 10%, 15%, or 22% withholding per payment. Another alternative is to make estimated tax payments per quarter, like a business owner does.2,3

 

Did you know that 13 states tax Social Security payments? In alphabetical order, they are: Colorado, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, and West Virginia. Sometimes, only higher-income seniors face such taxation. In Kansas, Missouri, and Rhode Island, for example, the respective AGI thresholds for the taxation of a single filer’s Social Security income are $75,000, $80,000, and $85,000.1

 

What can you do if it appears your benefits will be taxed? You could explore a few options to try and lessen or avoid the tax hit, but keep in mind that if your combined income is far greater than the $34,000 single filer and $44,000 joint filer thresholds, your chances of averting tax on Social Security income are slim. If your combined income is reasonably near the respective upper threshold, though, some moves might help.

 

If you have a number of income-generating investments, you could opt to try and revise your portfolio so that less income and tax-exempt interest are produced annually.

 

A charitable IRA gift may be a good idea. You can make one if you are 70½ or older in the year of the donation. Individually, you can endow a qualified charity with as much as $100,000 in a single year this way. The amount of the gift counts toward your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) and will not be counted in your taxable income.4

  

You could withdraw more retirement income from Roth accounts. Distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth workplace retirement plan accounts are tax exempt as long as you are age 59½ or older and have held the account for at least five tax years.5

 

Will the income limits linked to taxation of Social Security benefits ever be raised? Retirees can only hope so, but with more baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security, the I.R.S. and the Treasury stand to receive greater tax revenue with the current limits in place.

 

Michael Snow* may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser.

 

Citations.

1 – fool.com/retirement/2018/08/30/everything-you-need-to-know-about-social-security.aspx [8/30/18]

2 – forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/02/15/do-you-need-to-pay-tax-on-your-social-security-benefits-in-2018 [2/15/18]

3 – cnbc.com/2018/09/12/the-irs-is-warning-retirees-of-this-impending-surprise-tax.html [9/12/18]

4 – fidelity.com/building-savings/learn-about-iras/required-minimum-distributions/qcds [9/17/18]

5 – irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plans-faqs-on-designated-roth-accounts [10/25/17]

 

Do You Really Need Life Insurance?

Too many Americans have no life insurance. Their loved ones may pay dearly for that choice.

  

Provided by Michael R Snow

 

September is National Life Insurance Awareness Month – a good time to think about the value and importance of insuring yourself.

 

According to a recent Bankrate survey, 42% of Americans have no life insurance at all. They may not know that life insurance coverage has become much more affordable than it once was.1

 

Many people ask if life insurance is really worth the cost; maybe you are among them. The simple answer to that question is yes. It can be stunningly cheap: a healthy, non-smoking man in his thirties may pay less than $45 a month for a $1 million 20-year term policy. Permanent life insurance costs more than term life insurance, but permanent life policies can build cash value over time; term policies cannot.2

 

Life insurance is about managing risk, and if other people rely on you financially, you need to have it in place in case your passing puts them at financial risk. When a spouse or parent dies, there are financial matters to address: a sudden lack of income for a household, bills and mortgages or rent to pay, final expenses such as funeral or cremation costs, and the cost of children’s education. Without adequate life insurance coverage, a household is hard-pressed to meet these immediate, financially draining challenges.

 

Many growing families have inadequate life insurance coverage. The Bankrate survey discovered that 37% of parents with children under age 18 had no policy at all. Some younger families find coverage through group plans, but perhaps not enough: 32% of the survey respondents raising minor children said that the death benefits on their life insurance contracts were $100,000 or less.1

 

The problem of inadequate coverage seems to plague households of all ages. A five-figure life insurance payout can pay for a funeral, but it will not offer much economic insulation to a family after a wage earner dies. Bankrate found that 47% of the Americans who have life insurance have policies with coverage amounts of $100,000 or lower. Twenty-one percent of Americans have policies with death benefits of $25,000 or lower.1

 

How much coverage is adequate for you? Ideally, you should determine that with the help of an insurance professional. As a rough rule of thumb, the death benefit on a policy should be about 15 times your income. If you are considering a term life policy, the term should not end before your envisioned retirement age.2

 

Life insurance can also be valuable while you are alive. A policy with cash value components may grow over time. After a while, you may be able to borrow against the cash value. Sometimes the payout amount on these types of policies can be adjusted as well as the size of the premiums. Of course, you must keep paying the premiums to keep any kind of permanent life or term life policy in force.3

 

While you may decide you prefer one kind of policy over another, the important thing is to have coverage in place – not just to reassure yourself, but those you love. Life insurance can help a spouse or a family maintain financial equilibrium at a time when it is most needed.

 

Michael R Snow may be reached at 316-765-7738 or info@tower-strategies.com

http://www.tower-strategies.com

 

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

 

*Financial Advisor offering investment advisory services through Tower Financial Strategies Corp., a Registered Investment Adviser. Tower Financial Strategies Corp. is also a licensed Insurance Agency. (not licensed in all states)

  

Citations.

1 – bankrate.com/finance/insurance/money-pulse-0715.aspx [7/8/15]

2 – forbes.com/sites/timmaurer/2016/01/05/10-things-you-absolutely-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/ [1/5/16]

3 – nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/should-you-consider-cash-value-life-insurance/ [5/6/15]